Windows: The millennium and beyond

Microsoft just wants you to have fun. Or at least that's the focus of its Windows Millennium Edition (ME) operating system, the successor to Windows 98

The updated OS aims to transform the PC into a flexible platform for digital entertainment and creativity.

Carl Stork, general manager of Microsoft's Windows hardware strategy group, says Windows ME will simplify the use of digital music, photography, scanning, and other forms of digital entertainment. For instance, ME will offer a Movie Maker that helps novices create movies from images and video. Music-management features will include a more sophisticated version of Windows Media Player equipped with an Internet radio tuner.

An ongoing objective, Stork says, is to create a faster, easier out-of-box experience for users. He says Microsoft is especially focused on a speedier boot, aiming for a startup time of 25 seconds, and enhanced hibernate/resume performance. The OS also will fully support legacy-free systems and include a wizard that will simplify home networking, he says. Assuming the DoJ doesn't object, version 5.5 of Internet Explorer will be under the hood.

Beyond that, Windows ME, which will be the final OS based on Windows 98 code, will debut "PC Health" features that aim to boost system reliability and support. Examples cited by Stork include system-file protection, a method for restoring previous configurations, and unified help options.

What's more, a Windows Update feature will download updates in the background, then advise users that updates are ready for installation.

"You may get an automatic message advising that there's an update available and asking if you want to install it," Stork says. "You'll see increased use of the Web to enrich and automate the experience."

Late in 2001, expect the arrival of a consumer OS code-named Whistler, which will be based on Windows 2000, the successor to the NT kernel. "For home users, Whistler will marry the robustness of Windows 2000 with the ease of use that they expect from Windows ME," Stork says.

Microsoft's vision of Whistler is as "the heart of the digital home," Stork says. It should take rich digital media and entertainment capabilities to even higher levels.

Check out our Windows ME guided tour

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